Archive for what they hear in the dark

Another review…

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on January 9, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

Here’s what author Angela Slatter said about Gary McMahon’s What They Hear in the Dark – the original review can be found on her website:


I’ve just read the first offering from Simon Marshall-Jones’s Spectral PressWhat They Hear in the Dark, by Gary McMahon. The blurb goes thusly:

‘Rob and Becky bought the old place after the death of their son, to repair and renovate – to patch things up and make the building habitable.

They both knew that they were trying to fix more than their house, but the cracks in their marriage could not be papered over.

Then they found the Quiet Room …’

The idea of parents recovering after the death of a child has been used frequently, but as with all fiction it’s how you recombine the ideas and ingredients that makes your work stand out. Gary McMahon’s work stands out.

Horror stories can either be subtle or slashy and to my mind the more insidious and disturbing form is the subtle one. A truly talented writer will engage a reader in her/his character’s tragedy by picking out a few tiny, painful details – the sort that pierce your heart with their indelible ordinariness – because that kind of ordinariness echoes our own lives, our own tragedies. McMahon does this with Rob’s memory of his son’s ever-so-slightly imperfectly shaped skull, the feel of it under his hand when Eddie was born, the skipping of the parental heart worried that it might be a health issue.

Similarly, the fractured relationship between Rob and Becky is also finely and subtly and believeably drawn. When a reader begins to care about the characters, then any threat to those characters can be felt more keenly, the terror heightened. As this is a short story, I won’t give anything else away, but this chapbook is certainly worth a look. McMahon manages to create an atmosphere both potent with fear of the unknown and yet grounded in the everyday cares of wounded people.

Suggest you keep your eyes out for the next offering from Spectral.


Some more Spectral reviews

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 8, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

Here are two recent reviews of Gary McMahon’s chapbook for Spectral, What They Hear in the Dark. The first is from Jason Baki’s Kamvision blog:


What They Hear in the Dark
is the third story by Gary McMahon I’ve read in as many months. Each have been in a different format: the first was a short story in the underground horror anthology, The End of the Line; the second was his new novel from Angry Robot, Pretty Little Dead Things and now there is this chapbook. Throughout each of these different formats, the thing that stands out the most for me in McMahon’s work, is the intensity of his writing. His prose style is deeply introspective in tone, every thought and feeling of his characters is meditated upon. There is also a real sense of entering a liminal space, a place where defining boundaries disappear, along with certainty. I love this aspect of his writing, and in this story it is perhaps even more noticeable than in those others I’ve mentioned.

This short fiction explores the aftermath of a dark tragedy in the life of two individuals. Rob and Becky have lost their son in a terrible event, and now they are trying to move on with their lives as best they can. They’ve bought an old house which needs some work, and they hope it will give them something else to focus on as well as a fresh start. The house has a strange room in it, empty, and occupying a position within the building that apparently stifles all sound. The Quiet Room Becky calls it. In this place of emptiness, of absence, the loss they have sought to escape from becomes manifest. What follows is haunting metaphor, a wound that cannot heal, and a loss so great it cannot be spoken.

As this is only a short story I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice is to say, all of McMahon’s skill in conjuring a sense of psychological unreality and intense psycho-spiritual borderlands is present here. There is a wonderful cohesiveness to his writing as well, as if all that occurs within his characters is mirrored and reflected back by the outer world. Often the reflection is distorted, and here he injects the subtle suggestion of things being wrong beneath the surface that for me creates the most effective uncanny fiction.

This is a great first release for the newly formed Spectral Press. I actually think this is my favourite of the stories by McMahon I’ve read so far. Elegant and haunting, it would make a fantastic introduction to the writing of a powerful emerging voice in dark fiction. Definitely worth checking out.


And this one is from Paul D. Brazill and posted on his You Would Say That, Wouldn’t You? blog:


Rob and Becky want a fresh start. Their young son was killed and in the aftermath their marriage is dying. So, they move into a crumbling old house in the hope of rebuilding it and their marriage. And then they discover The Quiet Room, a room that isn’t on the blueprints of the house and is filled with more than silence.

What They Hear In The Dark by Gary McMahon is a wonderfully written chiller, full of atmosphere and sadness. It is a story of  real people facing up to a real life trauma and confronting its  ghosts. It is the first in a series of chapbooks from the cool new indie publisher Spectral Press and is highly recommended.


And finally, very satisfied customer Stephen Bacon has written a few things about Spectral on his blog – read it here. It appears that the imprint is indeed hitting all the right notes…

Review #11

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on January 5, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

This latest review is from Grade Z Horror and written by Capt Murdock – I think he liked it… =)


Creepy. Creepy. Creepy. What They Hear in the Dark is a first rate ghost story that grabs your soul, tugs at your heartstrings and leaves your head in a fog. Author Gary McMahon has given us a dark tale that gorgeously weaves the feelings of anger, frustration and helplessness that accompany the loss of love.

Rob and Becky are looking to rebuild their lives after the intensely brutal murder of their young child. The decide to focus all of their sorrow and grief on a dilapidated old estate, feeling that by restoring the house they will somehow be able to repair the damage done to their lives. Instead, they discover a room not found on any of the original floor plans. The room is devoid of any sound. The Quiet Room. The room begins to take hold of Rob and Becky and ultimately becomes the manifestation of their greatest hopes and darkest fears.

What They Hear in the Dark is nothing short of brilliant. Dark, emotional and frightening. Basically, everything you want in a well told ghost story. McMahon’s style is truly sophisticated. He is able to incorporate secondary themes and insightful flashbacks without ever removing the reader from the central plot. He ties all of this up with an ending that will haunt you for days after you put the book down- begging you to read it again and again.


What They Hear in the Dark is the first in a series of chapbooks being put out by Spectral Press. Each will be in strictly limited quantities of 100 only, signed and numbered by the author. If What They Hear in the Dark is any indication, I think Spectral Press will be an imprint worth following.

Spectral review #10

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

The goodness just keeps coming in – this is Peter Andrew Leonard’s (from The Man Eating Bookworm blog) review of Gary’s Spectral chapbook…


Spectral Press kicks off their line of small press chapbooks with none other than Gary McMahon, one of Britain’s best dark scribes. He’s the author of How to Make Monsters,  Hungry Hearts: Tomes of the Dead,  Rough Cut and most recently Pretty Little Dead Things.

Gary McMahon is one of those writers you hear a lot about from the other side of the ocean but doesn’t get enough exposure over here in Canada, not unless you squirm into the small press arena. Therefore I jumped at the chance to review his latest offering, What They Hear in the Dark.

What They Hear in the Dark is an emotionally charged and atmospheric tale of fear and loss. Rob and Becky move into a new house in the hopes of a new beginning after the senseless murder of their son, Eddie. The house is old, and like their marriage, is in need of some care. When they discover a room that isn’t on any of the blueprints, a room where silence reigns, the couple come face to face with something out of the ordinary.

Right from the start I was drawn to Rob and Becky’s plight. A parent’s biggest fear is something dreadful happening to one of their children. McMahon tackles the topic with the right amount of emotion and tenderness, at the same time exposing the anger and frustration, the emptiness, the couple must face.

Spectral Press is a small press dedicated to producing quality chapbooks devoted to ghostly or supernatural fiction and Gary McMahon’s story certainly gets things started in the right direction. What They Hear in the Dark is beautifully written, displaying McMahon’s strong talent for storytelling.

Spectral review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

Just received this wonderfully insightful review from Jassen Bailey of  The Bag & The Crow blog…


Gary McMahon has created a dark and dreary story of a married couple who are attempting to live life after the brutal murder of their son Eddie.  Rob and Becky have recently purchased a house, which is a metaphor of their life. The house is in need of some major repairs much like their marriage.

Both are struggling for closure. They discover a room in the cellar which becomes fittingly known as the Quiet Room. Inside the Quiet Room, Rob and Becky are forced to feel; something they apparently haven’t done for some time as evidenced by their individual reactions after spending time in the room. The Quiet Room offers thoughts, no distractions, and very well could be the key to truths. Most of all, it offers absolutely no noise.

Rob and Becky have a difference of opinion as to what the Quiet Room represents. One thing is for sure, they come face to face with their personal demons, past scars, and ghosts in this room.

Gary McMahon’s prose will change your mental forecast. This story will make you feel. What They Hear in the Dark is a well written story woven with loss, pain, ghosts, personal demons, and struggle.  McMahon takes on several major themes without distracting the reader. This is impressive considering it is a chapbook of 22 pages.  This chapbook is highly recommended to all. You will especially enjoy this one if you love tales where life is the ultimate villain.

Jassen Bailey

Stop-press: New Spectral Review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on January 2, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

This just in, a new review written by writer, editor and producer Cavan Scott, and posted on the Cavblog


What They Hear in the Dark, the first chapbook from Simon Marshall-Jones’ new Spectral Press imprint, is a creepy little tale of a couple mourning the death of their son. To combat their grief, Rob and Becky have thrown themselves into a renovation project, restoring a run-down old house to its former glory. The theory is that as they plaster over the cracks in the building, they will also repair their own fractured relationship and fill the aching void in their lives.

Needless to say, it isn’t working. However, they have found what, at first, looks like an interesting distraction. The ramshackle house contains a room that shouldn’t be there. It’s not on any plans and makes no architectural sense. And that isn’t the strangest thing – not only is the room structurally impossible, it also somehow absorbs any sound. Within those uncanny four walls, silence is king.

For Becky, the silence of the Quiet Room is a comfort, helping her find literal peace, but Rob isn’t so sure. Is there something else lurking in the silence, something linked to their son’s murder.

Gary McMahon‘s unsettling tale is a fantastic start for Spectral Press. Like all good ghost stories, the events are left somewhat unexplained, forcing you to fill in the blanks and the very concept of the Quiet Room is chilling and claustrophobic. This is understated horror, which never resorts to blood and gore, upsetting your soul rather than your stomach. The underlying menace at the heart of Tom and Becky’s dilapidated house will stay with you long after you’ve put down the rather handsome little publication.

The best short stories leave you longing to find out more, and this is certainly true of What They Hear in the Dark. McMahon could easily return to explore the terrible silence found in that inexplicable room and I for one will be returning to the Spectral Press for more ghostly goings-on.


New Year, new review…

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on January 1, 2011 by simonmarshalljones

Another positive review – this time from author Cate Gardner (note: I will declare here that Cate is due to have her own chapbook, Nowhere Hall, published this September by Spectral), published on the Skull Salad review site.


What They Hear in the Dark by Gary McMahon is the first chapbook from new publisher, Spectral Press. Both author and story are excellent choices to open the imprint.

There’s no sound in the quiet room. After the death of their son, Rob and Becky move into a new house and discover the room. It’s a room that shouldn’t exist and like grief, the couple experience the space differently. For Becky it is a comforting place, somewhere to feel close to her son. For Rob, it is a different experience altogether.

There is a sense of menace to the tale and McMahon weaves these characters and the room into our hearts and our nightmares.

What They Hear in the Dark is a gorgeous chapbook–both the story and the presentation. The publisher Simon Marshall Jones has produced a top quality chapbook and I highly recommend it. I should however note (though there is no bias towards the story in this review–I hope) that I have a chapbook forthcoming from Spectral Press.

You can find out more about the imprint and how to purchase either subscriptions or Gary McMahon’s chapbook at the Spectral Press website.

A new Spectral review…

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on December 31, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

This new review, courtesy of Walt Hicks and posted on David T Wilbanks’ Page Horrific review blog, is an absolute belter, and confirms both Gary’s standing as a writer destined for great things and also that I am definitely on the right track with Spectral Press:


What They Hear in the Dark by Gary McMahon is the inaugural release from Spectral Press, and they could not have gotten off to a better start.

The novella is a carefully crafted, slow burn of dread and suspense, told from the POV of Rob, half of a heart-broken couple mourning the untimely loss of their son. McMahon adeptly paints his characters quickly and with beautiful economy, and the reader feels almost like a voyeur observing their tormented bereavement so intimately. The wife and mother Becky is revealed in quietly morose layers that are particularly poignant. Overwhelming grief and pain, along with a number of atmospherically concise metaphorical devices are wonderfully melded, his spot-on dialogue contributes to the dark tone. McMahon’s deft eloquence is ideal for this type of ‘quiet’ horror tale, and his pitch perfect pacing to a heart-rending denouement is breath-taking.

Spectral Press’ mission statement of nodding to “classic ghost/horror stories written by some of the great”(s) is well-realized here, and I was reminded somewhat of the late, great Charles L. Grant with this offering.

The cover art for the chapbook is also appropriately understated, and the interior layout is easy on the eyes and comfortable to read. There were a couple of misused semicolons and a double tab in one paragraph, in the version I read, but otherwise the novella was extremely well-edited.

Much of the material I have read lately is of the “in your face” variety of horror, descriptive, violent and gruesome–and there’s nothing wrong with that at all, particularly if well done. However, if you have a passion for literate, darkly atmospheric tales told without the necessity for gore and violence, then Spectral Press’ What They Hear in the Dark is precisely your cup of hemlock.



What a brilliant harbinger perhaps for Spectral in 2011!!

New Spectral Press review…

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 28, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Before I get onto the main blog of the day, here’s a short but sweet review of What They Hear in the Dark by Nick Cato, posted on his Antibacterial Pope blog:


The first release from this new small press is an emotional look at a couple coping with the death of their son. During the renovation of their home, they discover a hidden room where there’s no sound…although Rob can sense a disturbing presence within, Becky seems to be a bit comforted by being in it, believing their son is close…

Being a short chapbook, that’s all I can reveal, but suffice it to say McMahon’s tale has a similar tone to some of Gary Braunbeck’s stories, i.e. simultaneously chilling and depressing. This is short and sweet “quiet horror” done right.

Yet another review for Spectral Volume I…

Posted in Book Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 24, 2010 by simonmarshalljones

Here’s another great review from David Hebblethwaite, as posted on his Follow the Thread blog. Here’s what he had to say about What They Hear in the Dark and Spectral Press (this follows two short reviews of current Nightjar Press titles):


Coincidentally, there’s a couple with a new house and a relationship under strain in Spectral Press’s first title,‘What They Hear in the Dark’ by Gary McMahon. Rob and Becky are renovating a house whilst still coming to terms with the death of their son Eddie, and find a strange room which, according to the plans, shouldn’t be there. They call it the Quiet Room, because it seems to absorb all sound.

There is, of course, something mysterious about the Quiet Room, but McMahon’s ultimate focus is less that than the characters of Rob  and Becky. What impresses me most about the story is what’s going on beneath the words and imagery, the way that the Quiet Room comes to embody the couple’s different responses to Eddie’s death — for Becky, the silence is comforting, as she feels it brings her closer to Eddie; for Rob, the Quiet Room is a place of fear, caused by his search for a deeper explanation for his son’s death than the one Becky has accepted. These conflicting views come to reflect the wider tensions in the couple’s relationship, making for a nice balance between character and atmosphere. McMahon’s story is a good start for Spectral Press; I’ll be keeping an eye on what they do in the future.


I couldn’t have wished for a better start for the imprint – copies of this are going fast, so secure yours today!